Life after Olympics: Apolo Ohno seeks to launch $50M blockchain platform

Eight-time Winter Olympics athlete Apolo Ohno said matching the passion he had for short-track speed skating after retiring in 2013 was a struggle until he got involved in blockchain technology.

“This sphere is really interesting to me because of the strength it has to really transform the economy,” Ohno told FOX Business. Ohno is one of several athletes including Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman to embrace digital currencies. They face skepticism from critics including Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton.

A two-time gold medalist, Ohno teamed up with other founders to create an all-in-one cryptocurrency trading ecosystem called HybridBlock and are working on raising $50 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) to help get it off the ground. Ohno said he has already invested a “substantial amount” of money.

“We are being very unique about our investments,” he said. “We’re not accepting any U.S. money into our ICO,” he added, referring to HybridBlock’s initial coin offering. Ohno said he became an early investor in digital currencies including bitcoin and ethereum shortly after he announced his retirement.

“I started just like anyone else did, really participating at the very core level,” he said. “Now, I’m looking at building out products to help to facilitate that trade.”

Clayton, the SEC chairman, told FOX Business earlier this week that he is taking a careful look at ICOs, which are similar to an initial public offerings but investors buy crypto tokens or coins instead of stock.

“I worry in particular about people who see things that look like a New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ listing for ICOs or cryptocurrencies and think that I’m getting the same protection for my token that I would be getting for a share of stock that trades on an exchange,” Clayton said. “They’re not.” Clayton warned against investors who think they are enjoying both the limited disclosure from a private placement and the advantages of a public offering. Ohno said he understands the criticism surrounding digital currencies, which is one of the reasons why he started the company.

“The goal is how do we educate the everyday retail market and crypto assets enthusiasts so they are more informed and better equipped to make the right type of decision in terms of participating in this space,” he said.

His new platform will serve as community of systems catering to three types of investor: the beginner, the intermediate and the expert.

“It’s for people that heard about cryptos and want to participate but don’t know where and how to do it,” he said, adding that a lot of people get hurt financially because they jump into investments without learning about how they actually work.

The former speed skater that while there are risks involved in starting a digital currency company, he thinks the same attributes that he brought to the Olympics will help him succeed in this effort.

“I was designed to figure out ways to win every year, every four years, so I’m very used to adapting,” he said.